Mauritania adopts new anti-terrorism law

Mauritania has adopted a new anti-terrorism law, a move designed to give its security forces greater powers in the fight against al Qaeda in the West African desert nation.

The law was passed by Mauritania’s National Assembly late on Wednesday 7 July and then the Senate Thursday. A previous version of the bill had to be changed after opposition politicians said it violated civil liberties.

“In general, terrorists strike countries where there is a lack of security or legislation. So for us, it was about filling this institutional and legislative gap,” said Sid Ahmed Ould Ahmed, leader of the UPR majority group in parliament.

Under the new law, restrictions on searches of houses or wire-taps by the security forces — formerly in place due to Islamic laws — are lifted, so long as authorization is granted by a judge. People under the age of 18 can also be charged under the new law, unlike before, when they were protected by Islamic legislation. The new law also grants immunity to members of terrorist groups who inform the authorities of a planned attack.

Opposition lawmakers still worry that the revised legislation will be abused and say they will challenge the law in the Constitutional Court.

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